When feedback isn’t helpful. What can you do?

We assume because it’s feedback that it’s right. Wait! Stop right there. Just because it’s feedback doesn’t make it good feedback. Feedback is simply information. Good feedback is information that is reliable, relevant and actionable. 

Studies show that feedback is impacted by biases like the natural tendency to rate people toward the middle, the lack of our ability to recall information accurately, the human tendency to focus on the “needs improvement” element or a perception bias also known as the “halo effect”. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give and receive feedback, but we should consider that bias means feedback isn’t fact.

Every single time you get feedback, your job is to decide what you do with it. 

~ Annie Perdue-olson

Some information is accurate and reliable, but it’s not relevant or is less relevant. Rather than ignore it all and miss out on the golden nugget, let’s give ourselves permission to intentionally ignore some feedback (at least for now) and dive into the good stuff by asking three questions.

Is this Feedback Reliable?

Some feedback can easily be viewed as wrong, unfair or unhelpful. We all have blindspots so it’s important to spend a moment evaluating the truth of the feedback. If it’s only part of the story, if the facts aren’t right, the perspective is limited, or it’s just plain wrong we can put that feedback at the bottom of the list. Let the reliable stuff stay close to the surface. NOTE: If you put things at the bottom of the list but keep hearing the same thing from multiple sources it’s probably time to give it some attention. Repetition makes it more reliable.

How Relevant is this Feedback?

Some feedback may lose relevancy because of who is delivering the feedback. They aren’t close enough to the situation, they are offering second-hand feedback, or they lack understanding in some way. Other feedback can be accurate and delivered by someone who really knows, but of all the feedback you need to act on, it’s less of a priority. Being clear on the areas where you want to grow helps you decide what feedback is relevant to your growth or the growth of your project/team and what feedback is good, but it’s just not the right time to prioritize it and act on it .

What Makes this Feedback Actionable?

If the feedback is reliable and it’s relevant, now it’s time to decide what action to take. Let’s say that you have 10 things on your list. It is not possible to tackle 10 new things effectively at once, therefore not all of them can be actionable right now. Making a change is an uphill climb requiring some stamina to get over the hump and arrive at where a new habit can take hold. So, narrow it down to what will have the greatest impact and is aligned with your growth goals. Unsure which is the most important? Invite some additional feedback from people you trust.

Focusing on one reliable and relevant thing at a time will make it actionable. Our enemy is trying to change too much at once. It isn’t all reliable, relevant and actionable at this moment. Set aside anything that doesn’t fit those categories. 

Next Steps

Look at what’s left on your list and ask yourself these questions to help you zero in on that ONE THING that will help you become more of who you want to be. 

  • What on my list will have the greatest impact on the area I want to grow?
  • What are things that I could add to what I am doing to address this feedback?
  • What might I need to do less of to address this feedback?
  • What is one action step I want to take? (set the other feedback aside for another day!)

Check out the Side By Side Podcast episode, Three Types of Feedback, for a framework for both giving and receiving feedback in your leadership and in all your relationships!

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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center for Coaching Excellence.

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